University crisis: President for win-win situation, SB unwilling to budge

Sri Lanka President on University crisis

President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday told newspaper editors at Temple Trees that what he envisaged as a solution to the on-going university strike was a win-win situation. He said the strikers had to appreciate the difficulties of the government and be realistic. Insisting that the university teachers were better paid than even the judges of the apex court in the country, he said there was no way their demand for more and more pay hikes could be met as that would prompt other professionals to follow suit.

When it was pointed out that what the university teachers had got were not salary increases as such but allowances, President Rajapaksa said that the fact remained that their income had increased substantially in absolute terms and that fact had to be appreciated.

While the meeting was on President Rajapaksa telephoned Higher Education Minister S. B. Dissanayake, who was at his Ministry and asked him to make a beeline there to field questions from the media.

Minister Dissanayake insisted that university teachers had been given substantial pay hikes and the government had even chosen to turn a blind eye to some of their practices such as availing themselves sabbatical leave to work at other local universities instead of going overseas. He said it was wrong for anyone to draw two salaries from the government.

In other countries universities conducted fee levying courses and in Sri Lanka, too, universities should adopt that method to generate income, Minister Dissanayake said. The Federation of University Teachers (FUTA) wanted the government to allocate 6 per cent of the GDP for education, but the country was already spending a similar amount on education, if expenditure borne by various institutions, was taken into account, he argued. He said that besides the Education and Higher Education Ministries other ministries such as Fisheries conducted educational programme.

Minister Dissanayake said though the FUTA was on strike, 30 per cent of university teachers worked and some universities had not joined the strike at all. In response to a recent appeal he made to the striking dons, about 10 per cent of them had reported back to work, he claimed.

President Rajapaksa said the FUTA should have refrained from resorting to trade union action after its meeting with his Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, who had undertaken to explore the ways and means of settling the dispute.

Asked what action the government intended to take to deal with the FUTA strike, Minister Dissanayake said it would be made known at an appropriate time.


Z-score dispute:

Govt. ascertaining data to evolve a solution – President

The government would see to it that no injustice would be caused to any student owing to the Z-score dispute, president Mahinda Rajapaksa told newspaper editors yesterday at Temple Trees. He said he had called for a report from the Ministry of Higher Education on the issue and it was expected shortly.

President Rajapaksa said that before initiating action to solve students’ problems due to the Z-score issue, he needed to ascertain accurate information about the situation from relevant authorities including the UGC and Vice Chancellors of universities.


Opposition scared of elections — MR

‘I’ve shut the door on UNP defectors’

When the SLFP was in the Opposition, it had always demanded elections, but today the UNP was scared of polls, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said yesterday. “A political party that shies away from taking part in electoral contests should be ashamed of itself.”

Asked whether there was any truth in rumours that UNP MP Dayasiri Jayasekera was trying to cross over to the government, President Rajapaksa said his government had a door which opened both ways and anyone was free to either enter or leave. Subsequently, he said some Opposition MPs had expressed their desire to cross over but he had not encouraged them to do so.

The President, however, refused to either deny or confirm the reports that MP Jayasekera was planning to cross over.


Courtesy: The Island